It is our belief, shared by many proponents of Raw Foods that the single best mechanism for getting enzymes inside your body is by eating Raw Foods. It is also often true that we need to supplement with enzymes in order to recover from ill health, or to make up for the limited amounts in even the best diets. If you are struggling with ill health, poor digestion or similar problems, enyzmes may really be at the root cause.
First off, what is an enzyme, and why it is so important.
Enzymes are the fundamental catalysts (helpers) of processes occurring in the body. They help facilitate chemical reactions and allow them to speed up and work more efficiently. Without enzymes, these reactions might never occur quickly enough, powerfully enough, or occur at all.
What kind of processes? Almost every single one! It is common reading articles readily available that enzymes are largely held as the measuring stick for biological activity. Meaning Life is measured by the amount of enzymatic activity! Your body is producing millions of these every second, and using them immediately:
- Digestion of Food
- Creating Cellular Energy (For more information research ATP, Krebs Cycle, and cellular metabolism) from the resource digested.
- Cell repair in all tissues, organs etc…
- Brain Function
While there are lots of chemical catalysts, most chemical catalysts catalyze (help) a wide range of reactions. They are not usually very selective. Enzymes are usually highly selective, catalyzing specific reactions only (for instance digestion). This is due to the shapes of the enzyme molecules, and how they fit into the substances they help.
Types/Classes of Enzymes
There are generally 3 types, or classes, of enzymes.
- Metabolic Enzymes:
- Digestive Enzymes
- Food Enzymes
These enzymes work directly within the cells, functioning as helpers to do whatever specific work that unique cell needs to do. Examples would be the conversion of minerals into a usable substance (Phosphorus or Calcium or Magnesium into human bone), providing the bind for iron within a red blood cell, regulation of valves in cardiac tissue, dilation of blood vessels, and much, muhc more.
These function outside a cell, and are normally associated with the break down of food into the usable, basic elements like Amino Acids, Essential Fatty Acids, Vitamins, Minerals etc… Most digestive enzyme supplements are focused on the breakdown of macro nutrients: Carbohydrates, Fats, and Protein. These enzymes are created by your body itself.
Food Enzymes are actually contained within the food itself, allowing the body to begin digesting and breaking down the food before the Digestive Enzymatic process actually begins. These enzymes are also what causes fruit to ripen, and then subsequently rot.
Functional scenarios for enzymes
Enzymes humans use fit into 2 categories, ones we make (Intrinsic) and ones we get from outside (Extrinsic). A great example of Intrinsic enzymes is digestive enzymes. Our bodies produce these in many areas of the body that help break down food into its simpler and more usable substances. An example of an Extrinsic enzyme is Papain, which comes from Papaya.
Enzymes humans use function within a fairly narrow range of Temperature, PH, and Concentration. The optimum Temperature is about 104 degrees F. Above that, the enzymes begin to break down and degrade (actually they “denature” similar to cooking proteins) as the temperature increases. They also function in very narrow ranges of PH. They are also limited by Concentration. If there aren’t enough enzymes molecules, they won’t work on all the chemical “substrates” (molecules) that need them.
So what does this mean to me?
This essentially means that a very fundamental ingredient in the basic functions of most every part of life are dependent on and governed by, some very specific products that have very specific requirements. The performance of this vital element has a very narrow range to work their best. This has huge impact on our bodies because there is really only one source of these products if they are not enzymes the body can make itself: EATING!
So now what?
It isn’t simply eating, but eating enzymes that are functioning within their correct parameters; Temperature, PH, and Concentration. Without these factors, the enzymes will not work as well as we need. 1
Concentration: Considering basic logic that all true food designed for Humans has within itself what we need (or it really wouldn’t be food), Concentration isn’t hard if we don’t affect the other parameters. The levels of enzymes should be sufficient assuming they haven’t already been denatured or modified. The concentration of enzymes in a particular food will be highest if we ensure the following:
PH: There is a lot of debate about this topic, but we can safely say enzymes themselves function within specific ranges, and if you need enzymes but are not able to have an environment within their optimum range, they are not optimally active! Some enzymes function only in acidic environments, but those are typically specialized, and occur only in areas they are needed (think pepsin in the stomach). Most references point to human enzymes, especially metabolic enzymes (enzymes that affect metabolic processes that are located in EVERY cell of the body) working at about 7.2, slightly alkaline. Therefore, more alkalinity would be considered better than more acidic for most enzymes in the human body.
Temperature: This is the easiest to control, but the hardest to implement! The more closely most enzymes is to 104 degrees F, the better. Any higher, and it starts to denature, until they are totally ineffective. Note this serious dilemma, I have found no easily accessible research claiming that at 118 degrees F all enzymes break down! I cannot find it anywhere other than on sites selling raw Foods, and it is not backed up by a results based study, it is simply made as a blanket claim!
However, it is clear from a simple looking around that enzymes do break down after heating, and I found a claim that Papain (from Papaya) is able to handle one of the highest temperatures, 190 degrees F.
Therefore, it is safe to find some maximum, and we think most Plant based enzymes handle up to 125 degrees F, which is awfully close to 118!
So tell it to me straight.
So, all factors point to foods that are slightly alkaline, near 104 Degrees F are optimum sources of enzymes. This would mean that RAW PLANT FOODS that have not been brought to Acidic PH, or above 104 degrees, have to be some of the best, if not THE best, enzymes for us to eat. The other alternative is taking supplements that have been extracted from Plants, and we think you should skip the middle man when possible, and go right to the source.
Common biology and understandings point by themselves to basic raw plants as optimum source of enzymes. This isn’t rocket science, and it isn’t a metaphysical argument.
The basic conclusion is: More RAW FOODS! And when you are making a transition to a healthier lifestyle or find your digestion sluggish or incomplete, use a good supplemental source of digestive enzymes.